Reviewer: Jay Nuttall
American stand-up star and Netflix sensation Iliza Schlesinger has a few dates on the other side of the Atlantic. Gigs in the UK, northern Europe and Scandinavia begin in Salford and, such is her rare appearance, her super fans ensure a sell-out. Game show and chat show host, author and successful comedian she may be in the Unites States, but, as yet, is a cult phenomenon in Britain due to her stand-up shows on Netflix.
Before Schlesinger takes to the stage a serious announcement informs the audience that hecklers will be removed. Bizarrely, this is followed by two stewards standing at the front of the auditorium for the entire seventy-minute set, as if protecting the stage from any unwanted invasions. At first, it seems like it may be an ironic joke but it quickly becomes apparent that it is not. Perhaps standard practice on the other side of the Atlantic it is a strange rider request that highlights an immediate cultural clash and feels more like an act of hostility and alienation rather than inclusion.
That said, Schlesinger is welcomed to the stage with rapturous applause. Her opening and only ad lib to the audience is a football reference, very quickly followed by “So, what’s going on with me …” The subsequent hour of comedy is a highly rehearsed, highly polished set – a verbal onslaught in which she hardly pauses for breath. Laying down the gauntlet to the audience it is their responsibility to keep up with her and her brain which seems to be a few seconds faster than her words. This is stand-up as a sprint.
Schlesinger’s demographic is, largely, women in their 20s and her material is essentially observational as a millennial female. At 35 confesses she only just qualifies as a millennial but she becomes a role model for her young audience. “Any girl not laughing at this [joke] is a liar” she proclaims. She exudes confidence as she peacocks around the stage. Her audience whoop and cheer and when, at one point, are chastised for not showing enough energy, whoop and cheer on command. Schlesinger has some great material on how women robotically scan men from head to toe in an instant, athleisure wear (the cross between athletic and leisure wear), and what she terms the ‘She Dragon,’ which is what women become when alone. Often categorised as a ‘feminist comedian’ this term can become controversial and sparks debate about whether any female comedian whose material deals with relationships from a woman’s point of view is automatically classed as a feminist.
“I’m American”, Schlesinger states, “I’m very focussed on me”. Her whole set is entirely focussed on her script. It is honed and delivered with machine-gun speed and sniper accuracy. Her style of stand-up is very American in that it is not intended to have any interaction with the audience. It seems a shame that her live show does not have some more personal interplay than her recorded shows on Netflix.
Reviewed on 16 April 2018 | Image: Contributed